New protocols for voting machines after displaying false candidates in elementary school

CRANSTON, RI (WPRI) – Rhode Island election officials are implementing new proofreading protocols for the November election after accessible ExpressVote machines displayed the wrong candidates for some races earlier this year.

The new protocols, approved Tuesday by the RI Board of Directors for elections, aim to prevent the general election mishap from repeating itself. Early voting begins October 19.

Target 12 first reported last month that the ExpressVote machines were showing candidates from 2018 — rather than 2022 — for several races on the Spanish-language version of the touchscreen voting machines, including the race for Providence mayor.

The problem was discovered by a Providence voter who used the machine during early voting, and candidate names were finalized ahead of the September 13 primary.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Electoral Committee Executive Director Bob Rapoza subsequently disagreed over who was responsible for the mishap. Each state agency has had different legal roles in the election – the secretary of state prepares and examines the ballots, while the electoral commission tests the machines – but hadn’t worked out new protocols for the ExpressVote machine, which was first deployed nationwide at the time.

ExpressVote allows voters with different disabilities to vote independently. (For example, a blind voter may use headphones and a Braille remote control to make a selection.) Candidate names were uploaded to the machine by a private provider, Elections Systems & Software, operating out of the Board of Elections in Cranston, where the machines are also located.

While the Board of Elections is responsible for “logic and accuracy testing” of the machines, the provider said candidates’ names were not checked during that process before the primary.

According to that New protocols were released on Wednesday, ES&S will now provide the Secretary of State with “virtual ExpressVote screens” for proofreading after they have uploaded the candidates to the machines. Additionally, during logic and accuracy tests beginning Thursday, the board will compare the ExpressVote screens to a printed sample ballot for each race. The Electoral Officer also verifies that the ballot printed from the ExpressVote is correct.

For the Spanish-language screens, this is also done by a Spanish-speaking member of the electoral board.

“With these measures, Rhode Island voters can have full confidence in using ExpressVote machines to cast their ballots,” Rapoza said.

While the machines are required by law for people with disabilities, election officials have encouraged the general public to use them. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza released photos showing the new device during early voting in August, before the bugs were discovered at the same polling station. (Elorza used the English language screen so he didn’t encounter the Spanish language screen, which would have incorrectly shown his own name as a 2018 candidate.)

Elorza later demanded that the machines be withdrawn because of the problems before the primaries, which the electoral committee refused. The old accessible machines, called AutoMark, could not be made ready in time for the primary. (The old machines helped the voter mark a regular paper ballot.)

All voters can choose to use a paper ballot or to vote at the ExpressVote machines that will be located at each polling station.

Early voting starts on October 19 and Election Day is November 8.

Stephen Machado ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. connect with her on twitter and on Facebook.

Comments are closed.